After Labor Day, too many people put away their garden gloves and start thinking about apple picking and fall foliage.
These are great things to look forward to, but there are still many others. For example, there are many colorful flowers that can still bloom in your garden this time of year. Some of my favorites are:
Clematis ternifolia – Autumn clematis grows from perennial roots in the ground each year to cover a trellis with vines and then white flowers in September. Very pretty.
Physostegia – An obedient plant that has pretty white or pale blue flowers that are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Perennial.
Tricyrtis hirta or toad lilies bloom – Has small orchid-like blooms in September in a shade garden. Easy to grow and very rugged. Perennial.
Chelone or turtlehead – A bushy green leafed plant that grows three feet tall all summer and blooms with pink flowers in fall. Likes evenly-moist soil in part shade. Perennial.
Aster novae-angliae or Aster novae belgii – New England aster is the common purple flower you see along the roadside in September all over this part of the country. New York aster is the pale blue slightly more refined aster you see growing in the same field at the same time. Both of these wonderful native plants have been used to create cultivars that are perfect for home gardens. They bloom profusely all throughout September. Perennials.
Marigolds, dahlias and Verbena bonariensis- Three annuals that can also be counted on to produce flowers all throughout September. All are easy to grow and make great cut flowers.
So this year, plant a few fall-blooming perennials that will be ready to put on a show for you next September.
Bird-friendly shrub grove
At a certain point in your life, the desire to fuss with perennials (as easy as they can be) or pull weeds to make your flower beds look perfect in case the neighbors come over, burns a little less brightly. A friend of mine realized he was in this boat at the same time he had a large tree removed from atop a mound in his front yard. He loves the outdoors and takes a great liking to birds and butterflies.
The solution was to create a bird-friendly grove of shrubs that would cover the top and sides of this mound, reduce the amount of lawn area he has to mow, provide food for birds and basically make him the envy of his well-groomed Delmar neighborhood.
After my friend had the tree removed, he had the stump ground down to nothingness. We raked the resultant wood chips out over the top of the mound to provide the initial base of mulch to keep the grass from returning. He had six yards of brown mulch delivered that was also spread out over the mound.
At this time of year, the selection of nursery stock at local garden centers is lacking, but we were able to find three blueberry bushes, two weigela, one ninebark and two Hydrangea quercifolia.
High bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) will produce fruit for you or the birds after a couple years. They have small white flowers in spring, blueberries in summer and nice red foliage in fall. Will grow to five or six feet tall. Plant more than two different varieties for best fruit.
Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ is a cold hardy shrub that grows five feet tall and wide. It produces bright red flowers on arching stems in early summer. Red prince is very hardy and often produces a second batch of flowers in fall.
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolia) is a hardy shrub that grows six to 10 feet tall and wide, produces white flowers in spring, yellow to bronze fall foliage and reddish fruit in fall.
Hydrangea quercifolia or Oak leaf hydrangea is native to the southeastern United States, but is hardy to ESDA Zone 5, which is where Albany is. It typically grows from four to eight feet tall, but can get up to 12 feet high. It has upright clusters of white flowers in late summer, which will turn shades of pink in fall.
Next time you have a landscape dilemma, think of your feathered friends when you choose the shrubs you want to plant. They will provide you with flowers and fall color and plenty of fruit and seeds for the birds.
Larry Sombke is a landscape consultant, speaker, author and a frequent guest on Northeast Public Radio. Contact him with questions at www.beautifuleasygardens.blogspot.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.